Razer shows portable gaming system with LCD keys

By on January 6, 2011, 4:38 PM
Amid the bevy of tablets and other such mobile devices at this year's CES is an intriguing portable gaming system developed by Razer. Called the Switchblade, the 7-inch clamshell aims to bring full-fledged PC gaming to a super mobile form factor. That's obviously easier said than done, because true PC gaming requires a reasonably powerful processor and graphics chip, neither of which mingles well with the space restrictions of an ultra-mobile machine.

According to Engadget, that's precisely what's kept the Switchblade behind closed doors. Razer told the site that it's been developing the Switchblade for years, but Intel's Atom platform simply hasn't been quick or efficient enough. Although Atom still isn't synonymous with extreme computing, apparently Razer thinks Oak Trail has some promise. Razer hasn't specifically said Oak Trail is inside, but the company does say it's Atom powered in this promo video.

Little else is known about the Switchblade's internals, but that's not really the focus of today's unveiling anyway. What's most interesting about the device is its approach to scaling the PC gaming experience down to a nearly pocket-sized machine. That's largely accomplished by an LCD keyboard that changes depending on what you're doing. To be clear, it's not an LCD panel with a software keyboard, but a fully functional hardware keyboard with an LCD below.


Engadget says it feels like your typical chiclet keyboard and it has enough keys to make the standard English layout. However, when you launch a game, a separate profile is loaded and the keys transform to represent game-specific options. For instance, if you open World of Warcraft, the keys morph to movement arrows, spells, chat symbols and so on. It's unclear if users will have full control over each key's image or if they'll just have to rely on profiles.

It's worth noting that the Switchblade won't just act as a gaming device. Since it runs Windows 7, it could easily fill the void between your smartphone and desktop when it comes to mobile content creation and entertainment. Unfortunately, Razer hasn't publicly committed to a launch timeframe, let alone a price. In fact, they're still calling the device a "design concept," so don't expect to get your hands on one until sometime next year at the earliest.




User Comments: 18

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Now that is damn clever. Just like their Razer gaming rats. I'm not a netbook fan (or even a laptop for that matter - I don't have either). But I could see myself buying one of these pending how it eventually turns out price and performance wise.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I like the concept, for sure... A little disappointed that it's so heavily Intel (wondering if they partnered or something like that), as I could see a Fusion APU working well in this unit. I'd gladly upgrade from my PSP with this for a traveling media/gaming platform... Provided it's got good battery life, and isn't ridiculously expensive!

And I think it could serve as an interesting gaming accessory, maybe. Consider a linking application, allowing a connection to a gaming-capable HTPC. Full screen for the game, keyboard input with this Switchblade as the programmable keyboard. Plus, with some interesting apps, you could have chat in the 7" window, radar screens, etc.

Cota Cota said:

Just make the keyboard for my desktop, im sure ill do something whit it on Skyrim :P

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Wow, I'll be surprised when they can get good performance on games on such a small package.

And a keyboard like this already exists, but it costs $1K+. It has an LCD screen on each key, so you can use whatever you want.

ramonsterns said:

Sounds like a gimmick, looks like a gimmick.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

They could probably get away with using Sandy Bridge now that it is out. A "low power" Sandy Bridge would be much better than Atom. Likewise a Fusion APU would be much better as well.

Modena said:

I just don't see how this could run any games well, they have it showing wow I'd like to see it's FPS numbers in a 25man. Atremedes anyone?!?!!? LUL

Guest said:

On such a small screen they could have a native resolution of 640*480 then u wouldnt need a really powerful gpu

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

On such a small screen they could have a native resolution of 640*480 then u wouldnt need a really powerful gpu

The resolution shown there doesn't look like 640x480 to me.

As I said before, this is a gimmick and will probably die a month after release.

pcnthuziast said:

Rather than talk outta my arse with self assured oppinions, I'll wait to see what actually develops.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Rather than talk outta my **** with self assured oppinions, I'll wait to see what actually develops.
Yeah well, what makes you so special......? Don't you wanna fit in....?

fpsgamerJR62 said:

Now, that's a netbook I can relate to. Too bad, it's still a concept device. I hope they drop the wimpy Atom processor for something more powerful like Sandy Bridge or Fusion.

Guest said:

I'm thinking about upgrading my gaming rig moving from a 23" LCD monitor to a 42" LED screen so...why anybody would want a 7" screen for gaming? My God!

Not to mention the "fantastic" gaming power on these machines...

Oh! C'mom! Give me a break!

Razer, please, keep up the good work bringing exotic mice and keyboards, as well as gaming gear in general.

We're moving towards the future, experimenting games that will require lots of hard drive space (I mean, hundreds of gigs of space), higher resolutions beyond the current 1080p, and maybe a mature 3D gaming experience very different from we have today (if there is anything...), i.e. tremendous CPU and GPU power requirements...

So, if you want one of these things, don't forget to get yourself a magnifying glass! hehehehe...

Desktops will always be the best choice for gaming...I mean, a real, true gaming experience...

Cheers!

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

I'm thinking about upgrading my gaming rig moving from a 23" LCD monitor to a 42" LED screen so...why anybody would want a 7" screen for gaming? My God!

Not to mention the "fantastic" gaming power on these machines...

Oh! C'mom! Give me a break!

Razer, please, keep up the good work bringing exotic mice and keyboards, as well as gaming gear in general.

We're moving towards the future, experimenting games that will require lots of hard drive space (I mean, hundreds of gigs of space), higher resolutions beyond the current 1080p, and maybe a mature 3D gaming experience very different from we have today (if there is anything...), i.e. tremendous CPU and GPU power requirements...

So, if you want one of these things, don't forget to get yourself a magnifying glass! hehehehe...

Desktops will always be the best choice for gaming...I mean, a real, true gaming experience...

Cheers!

You obviously aren't the demographic Razer is targeting. Just because YOU don't see the value in the system, doesn't mean it isn't there. The future isn't just "bigger better faster hotter" as you seem to believe, it's also in efficiency and mobility. Just take a look around: Mobile electronics (laptops, netbooks, tablets, etc) are a massive chunk of spending in the technology sector right now, and companies (Intel, AMD, nVidia, ARM, etc) wouldn't be sinking ungodly amounts of resources into developing ultra-efficient components if it wasn't the way of the future.

There are multitudes of people who are constantly mobile and could benefit from a platform like this - much bigger display than mobile gaming consoles available now, smaller and more portable than big clunky gaming laptops. If they can keep the price well below decked out gaming laptops, and keep battery life high enough, this could be a big win for many folks.

Personally, I'd love to replace my typical traveling combo (PSP and netbook) with a nice little rig that I can actually use for work, decent games, and media consumption while traveling. And, let's face it, that keyboard design is just cool!

Guest said:

@Vrmithrax

I agree the future is green energy, i.e. let's everybody be efficient. I really know that because I'm electric systems engineer and I keep searching for new technologies, specially those defined as more efficient.

I also agree that people are more and more becoming wireless, mobile, etc.

What I truly believe is that for you to have a great experience playing a game, you must have a great hardware; and this type of equipment does not offer that level of experience.

I'm sure you understand my point, as well as I did understand yours.

I'm sorry if I gave you the impression of a desktop fanboy. It was not my intention.

Let's everybody have fun playing good great games! Some will use a massive CPU/GPU powered desktop, others -- in the near future -- will have the opportunity to enjoy a good game on this portable platform.

Cheers!

Guest said:

Unless this thing can perform on par with systems like the M17x-R2 or the Asus G73JW, why bother? Real gamers don't go for mediocre garbage like a 7" screen and a pantywaist Atom CPU. The keyboard is a neat concept, but that may not be a durable solution for travelers that need a mobile PC gaming platform. Travelers that are avid gamers don't need one more thing subject to breakdown due to the rough and tumble nature of life on the road.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Ooo look, it's this year's "Game Boy". Now there's something we all need for self betterment! I'm going to play with mine while I walk in front of a buss. How about you, will you be playing with yours while you're out on a date?

Guest said:

"Just make the keyboard for my desktop, im sure ill do something whit it on Skyrim :P"

there is a keyboard with an lcd for each key... it EXPENSIVE though... like $1000 last time i checked.

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